After years working in marketing and retail buying, Laura Sylvester set her sights on the simple goal of opening her own boutique. The reality of this dream proved a bit less simple. “The idea of starting a brick-and-mortar store from scratch seemed so daunting,” Sylvester explains. She first learned of the concept of a mobile store on a blog that described a popular San Francisco mobile boutique. “I loved the idea!” says Sylvester. “It’s a great way to go where the customers are, and the costs are much less prohibitive than a traditional store.” Unlike the few mobile boutiques she came across in her research, Sylvester wasn’t interested in selling clothes. “I chose to focus on items you don’t have to try on, like accessories, art, and home décor,” she says. Her quest for the perfect vehicle led her to a former FedEx Truck, which she renovated to become the Wander Truck in early 2015.
In the truck and online, Sylvester curates a mix of fashionable and eclectic American-made pieces, spotlighting local artists whenever possible. “I try to feature artists with a cool vision or backstory,” she says. Notable items include Maine-inspired nautical rope bracelets by THE ROPES; eco-friendly throws and blankets from Happy Habitat by Karrie Kaneda; and illustrated prints by Northborough artist Sarah Wormann. Throw pillows, handcrafted purses, quirky stationery, and small furniture items are all popular with Wander Truck followers.
Sylvester first hit the road last spring, making appearances at Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming, Salisbury’s Vintage Bazaar, and Boston’s Greenway Open Market, among other locations throughout the state. “Pre-arranged events and gatherings are such a great venue for the truck, because customers and other local vendors are guaranteed to be there,” Sylvester explains. During her first year, she attended events at least three days a week; now, she wants to increase those hours. To that end, she offers private Shop and Snack events, where offices, businesses, and even individuals can book the Wander Truck at their home or workplace; Sylvester has partnered with Lollycake Ladies, a local bakery that serves portable desserts, to provide snacks while customers shop.
The Wander Truck website complements and supplements the mobile boutique year-round. “When the boutique first launched, it was too cold to take the truck out, so the website gave customers a chance to learn about the concept and products,” Sylvester explains. While Sylvester typically retires the truck during January, February, and March, the website continues to offer the same diverse selection as the truck.” Sylvester adds.
Sylvester has received “a wonderful reaction from customers at events. It’s a unique concept, and people are excited!”